The Scoop on Squash: Summer and Winter Varieties and Uses

Crisp fall days are here! Cooler weather brings plenty of produce possibilities, from the last of summer favorites like tomatoes and corn to cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower that prefer not-so-hot days and nights. The summer-to-fall shoulder season is bursting with squash, too—both summer and winter varieties are readily available and always a good bargain. No matter which squash you choose, you’ll have an inexpensive and versatile ingredient that scores very low on the glycemic load scale. That’s a bonus, because in contrast to higher-GL ingredients like grains and roots, squash will have much less of an impact on your blood sugar levels. Steady blood sugar levels = better health! Another squash perk: the more orange its interior is, the more vitamin A it contains.

If you’d like to take advantage of squash’s goes-with-anything nature and its low GL effect, try swapping it out for grains and roots. Want to make pasta for dinner? Instead of using grain-based noodles, toss cooked spaghetti squash strands (or spiralized cooked or raw zucchini noodles) with your favorite sauce. Want a new twist on mashed potatoes? Simmer cubed butternut squash in water or broth, drain and mash it, then stir in butter and cream. In place of stuffed baked potatoes, make stuffed baked acorn squash. Or cut butternut into wedges, toss them with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle them with chili powder, and then bake at 375F for 15 to 20 minutes to turn them into oven fries.

You’ll never run out of ways to use squash!

Summer squash characteristics:

  • Tender and watery
  • Best served fresh and raw
  • Some varieties can be spiralized into noodles
  • Also good lightly sautéed
  • Not freezable

Examples of summer squash:

  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow crookneck
  • Pattypan
  • Chayote (peel this under running cold water before using)

Winter squash characteristics:

  • Generally hard-skinned and long-lasting
  • Best served roasted or simmered and mashed
  • Also good lightly sautéed
  • Cooked and mashed winter squash is excellent in baked goods
  • Cubed winter squash is a wonderful addition to soups
  • When roasted or simmered, you can eat the skin of thin-skinned winter squash (think delicata and sweet dumpling)
  • Winter squash has edible seeds that are lovely when roasted
  • Freezable

Examples of winter squash:

  • Butternut
  • Pumpkin
  • Spaghetti
  • Buttercup
  • Kabocha
  • Acorn
  • Sweet dumpling
  • Hubbard
  • Delicata
  • Red kuri

 

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